Work can sometimes be a drag. We can wonder how to motivate ourselves. And I'm not just talking about work in a workplace or jobs around the house. There's also the work of loving and relating well to friends and family members. There's the work of processing emotions and working through unhelpful thinking patterns we've got stuck in. There's spiritual work, like guarding our hearts, which the book of Proverbs urges us to do, above all else (Prov 4:23).
Sometimes we can use one type of 'work' to put off or procrastinate from doing another type of work that we probably should be prioritising. Then there's the question of rest and how it relates to work.
The Blessing of Getting Going
The book of Proverbs approaches this topic somewhat negatively - it warns us not to be sluggards, when it comes to the work we have to do.
'Sluggards do not plow in season;
so at harvest time they look but find nothing.'
The sluggard puts off the work they have to do and instead of being blessed, they find themselves in scarcity.
'A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest —
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.'
The solution is to get going with the work we have to do.
Get In and Do the Work
My Pop had a great saying that's been passed down through our family: 'when you've got a job to do, do it now and do it well'. That pretty much captures the sentiment of the book of Proverbs.
'The lazy do not roast any game,
but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.'
Whether it's work to put food on the table, work to keep your house in order or the often difficult work of processing interactions with others well - we've got to get into it today, if we want to move forward.
An Important Type of Work
In some ways this message is counter-cultural. We can love our holidays, our down-time, our 'me' time and our sleep ins. It's interesting to note that while the book of Proverbs has lots to say about how we do our work, and the place of relating rightly to others and to God as we do our work, it doesn't say a whole lot about rest - apart from urging us caution against over-sleeping!
Does this fit with the New Testament Picture of rest? Well, in moving towards an answer, it's interesting to note that the topic of sleep comes up at a crucial point in the record of Jesus' life in the Gospels. As Jesus faces the prospect of the work of the cross, dying in our place, he asks he friends to stay, watch with him and to pray. Yet when he returns from having done just that, he finds them fast asleep. What will he say? Commend them for getting their required 8 hours of kip? Quite the opposite:
“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
There is a point where even something good, like sleep, becomes the enemy of what is best - engaging with our God in prayer.
Too Much Work!?!
All this might seem pretty overwhelming. You might think, I thought Jesus said he would give us rest. That is true, rest is found in Jesus, he has done all the work that was needed on our behalf. Even where the disciples failed and fell asleep, Jesus went on to die to forgive their shortcomings. Yet we must not miss that life in Christ does involve an active engagement. Even as we come to Jesus for rest, we are told to take on his 'yoke' - there is work to be done in actively following Jesus, though of course his burden is light and easy (Matthew 11:28-30; cf. also Mark 6:31, Psalm 127:1-2). He doesn't give us too much or too little. He is the perfect Lord, who wants us to actively engage in life in this world for him. Yet he is the only one who can free us and empower us to work in the way we were created.
Is there a job Jesus is calling you to do today, that you need to 'do now and do well'?
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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